After the film directed by Sandra Bullock, comes an interesting reinterpretation of the same story
Barcelona (Spain/2023). Direction and script: Álex and David Pastor, based on the novel Bird Box by Josh Malerman. Photography: Daniel Aranyó. Music: Zeltia Montes. Edition: Martí Roca. Cast: Mario Casas, Alejandra Howard, Lola Dueñas, Georgina Campbell, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Diego Calva. Available on: Netflix. Our opinion: good.
The brothers Álex and David Pastor had already demonstrated their solvency for the creation of disturbing climates in Home, the interesting thriller, also an original Netflix title, in which its protagonist moved in the gray, with a procedure questionable film that the filmmakers decided to tackle from several fronts. In a way, Home functioned as a character study in which the protagonist was dissected down to the crux of the matter: why he behaves the way he does, what led him to fall into the deepest darkness.
Three years after that feature film, the latest title by the Pastors, a spin-off of one of Netflix’s most successful productions, starring Sandra Bullock, and directed by Susanne Bier, arrives on the Bird Box Barcelona streaming platform: Bird Box: blindly.
In 2018, the film by the Danish filmmaker, based on the novel by Josh Malerman, became a true phenomenon that, despite its shortcomings, managed to convey the sensation of panic aroused in a post-apocalyptic world in which a threat, in absentia, surrounded the individuals, enveloping them and challenging them to look into her eyes. If a person established direct contact with this abstract supernatural force, an instinct would awaken in him that would lead him to suicide. In that terrifying scenario there was no other option but to cover his eyes, the only possible form of self-preservation. On the other hand, Bird Box: blindly also had a subtext linked to the difficulties of motherhood, with Bullock’s character raising her children in a society where horror prevailed.
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The spin-off by the Pastor brothers -who also adapted Malerman’s novel- replicates the original idea, although only in general lines, and subverts the narrative to avoid a linear structure similar to that of the film it takes as a base, distancing himself from that construction in acts of the story. After an effective beginning that places us in a Barcelona decimated by the irruption of this force that led a large part of society to death, we meet the central character, Sebastián (Mario Casas, co-star of the aforementioned Hogar) who, with his daughter next door, he moves suspiciously through collapsed buildings in order to find help for him and his little girl. Immediately, a break occurs when that protagonist, the presumed hero of the battle, begins to contribute to the suicide of the people who they cross their path. The reason for his behavior is skilfully explained through flashbacks that show, in a balanced way, Sebastián’s course and the key role his daughter played in that trip of mass destruction.
Thus, we meet a group of religious fanatics led by Father Esteban (Leonardo Sbaraglia), who are looking for survivors to remove their blindfolds and make them “see the light.” In this way, Bird Box Barcelona becomes a bit of a Manichean when it divides the city between devotees of this supposed “miracle” (total surrender to an event that they consider divine) and those who fight daily for a refuge, with survival as only alternative. Sebastián, torn between both positions by a disruptive event that alters his perspective, presents himself as an enigma until he collides with two young men who take him, with some mistrust, to a shelter where he meets people from different latitudes (Mexico, Germany, United Kingdom), who are planning their next steps.
The eventual release to the outside world, with all the obstacles that arise, is very more terrifying in this version, with a good handling of the action and with gore sequences with which the directors put us in the face of a world with individuals not only physically dejected, but also with their psyche completely broken (with Sebastián as the spearhead of this), and with echoes of the coronavirus pandemic, with that cosmopolitan city whose inhabitants no longer travel its hectic streets.
Although in certain scenes the bid between Sebastián and the priest is worked with little subtlety, Bird Box Barcelona provides a bloody look at that episode that stripped individuals of any interest or purpose other than to continue advancing, with fear, and with the sounds of the voices of figures that left a trauma in his past. The Pastor brothers do not try to force the camaraderie of this group that is formed to survive: the focus is placed on the gradual annihilation of being, with a grim and hopeless ending.
Bird Box Barcelona is now available on Netflix.